LAKELAND – The U18AA Lakeland Panthers hockey team will soon bid farewell to eight of its graduating players, who played their last regular season games on March 4 and 5.
Graduating this year are Jordan Barrett, Logan Bohme, Samuel Comeau, Jamal Fayad, Jed Houle, Zachary Lapointe, Aidan McGilvery, and Dymitri Myshaniuk.
On March 4, the U18AA Lakeland Panthers faced off against the U18 AA KC Colts in Bonnyville, losing 3-2.
Dymitry Myshaniuk, who has been with the Panthers for four years, is among the graduating players. “It’s definitely emotional because I played here for quite a bit, and just wanted to get a win tonight but couldn’t quite get it.”
However, he is looking forward to the future. Myshaniuk plans to attend a couple of Junior A hockey camps this spring.
“If I don’t make Junior A, then I’ll play Junior B,” he said before thanking everyone who has supported him throughout his time in minor hockey and thanked the Panthers “for the great last year.”
“I really enjoyed it,” said Myshaniuk.
The following day on March 5, the Panthers played their last regular season game against the Strathcona Warriors at the Clancy Richard Arena in St. Paul. The game ended in a 3-3 draw.
Zachary Lapointe is also among the eight graduating players. He has been with the Panthers program for seven years.
Prior to the Panthers’ game against Strathcona, Lapointe briefly recalled his time in minor hockey.
“It’s kind of weird, you know, having it all come to an end so fast,” he said. Ever since he started playing peewee hockey with the Panthers, “it’s just been one great year after another.”
To end his journey with minor hockey, “it’s pretty bittersweet.” Lapointe aims to focus more on his studies, and “I’ll re-evaluate my hockey situation after.”
“For now, I think this might be it for a little bit,” reflected Lapointe.
Coach Jamie Myshaniuk expressed how proud he felt as the regular season came to a close. This year, the graduating players have been leaders both on and off the ice, he said.
“Every year you play hockey, you grow and get more mature, and you get better at your skills,” said Jamie. “They definitely matured and got better in every year that they played.”
With some players likely moving on to play junior hockey, he wished them good luck, reminding them to never forget "what they’ve learned,” playing minor hockey. He encouraged them to remain disciplined, always make an effort, get a good night's rest, eat good food, show up and play.
Following the regular season, the team moved on to playoffs for the Northern Alberta Hockey League (NAHL) in the CanAccom Division 2.
Overall, Jamie said the Panthers had a good season despite the challenges the team faced, like injuries and suspensions, for example.
“The kids have developed and we’re playing a lot better hockey right now. It’s been a good year and a good group of kids.”
Jamie concluded by expressing his gratitude toward all individuals who played a part in making it possible for the Panthers’ hockey team to exist, including the team’s sponsors, assistant coaches, as well as the parents for volunteering.